Morir por el libre comercio

El año pasado fue malo para el libre comercio. Se suponía que la Ronda de Doha pondría a la agricultura en el centro de las negociaciones para mitigar las profundas frustraciones de los países en desarrollo. Pero, en vez de darle vida al libre comercio de alimentos, el proteccionismo agrícola de los países ricos parece haber acabado con la Ronda de Doha –y, con ella, potencialmente con todo el régimen multilateral de comercio.

La agricultura siempre ha sido el desafío más grande de la doctrina del libre comercio y su promesa de potenciar la situación de los pobres, ya que es una de las áreas más distorsionadas del comercio global. En 2004, los países de la OCDE gastaron en apoyo para sus agricultores más de cuatro veces de lo que tenían presupuestado para la asistencia oficial al desarrollo. En 2000, el Banco Mundial estimaba que el proteccionismo agrícola de la OCDE le costaba al mundo en desarrollo 20 mil millones de dólares en pérdidas de bienestar al año. Lo más irritante es que la agricultura es una parte pequeña y decreciente de las economías de este “club de los ricos”, y mientras más ricos y grandes son, menos significativa es la agricultura y más recursos se desperdician en el bienestar de las áreas rurales.

El desafío práctico proviene de las dos ventajas de la agricultura que aíslan al sector rural de las fuerzas del mercado global y convierten incluso a los políticos más moderados y liberales en sus defensores. En primer lugar, la agricultura está geográficamente concentrada y los agricultores votan en términos de las políticas agrícolas por encima de todo, lo que eleva el poder de sus votos –algo que sólo algunos consumidores urbanos, si acaso, hacen.

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